We were recently invited to a meeting with a Council official who was giving a short presentation on the benefits of Selective Licencing. A constant theme throughout the presentation was how private landlords would be held accountable for dealing with anti-social behaviour.
If you are a private sector landlord and do not have experience dealing with rogue tenants, then help is on hand. Our consultants are experts in dealing with high crime and complex anti-social behaviour. We use a number of tools to stop anti-social behaviour, not to force an eviction – which may be the desired outcome of a victim.
Prevention is better than a cure.
Preventing antisocial behaviour starts with checking the tenant(s) background to ensure there is no prior history of anti-social behaviour.
Obtaining references from a prior landlord or people who know the tenant is not always a reliable source of information on how the prospective tenants have managed a previous property. This is because some landlords will want to get rid of the tenant and by providing a good reference to move them to another property, they may be saving on legal costs in evicting the tenant.
Checking a tenant(s) credit file can identify how many times a tenant has moved properties, which could indicate that there may be a problem if a tenant is showing that they have not remained within a tenancy for very long. The credit file will also flag up issues of outstanding debts and County Court Judgements.
Another way to prevent antisocial behaviour is to have a robust tenancy agreement. The terms of your tenancy agreement can be the most powerful tool you have in dealing with anti-social behaviour. Very often tenants will stop their behaviour on receiving a strong warning letter to remind them of their obligations under their tenancy agreement.
Community Protection Notices
Community Protection Notices are available to the police and local authorities to stop persistent environmental anti-social behaviour such as complaints of noise, graffiti or rubbish on private land. The notice can direct the perpetrator(s) to stop causing the problem or to take action to remedy the problem.
Social landlords have a number of remedies they can use to deal with anti-social behaviour. If the problem is serious or previous remedies have failed to stop it, an application can be made for a civil injunction under Part 1 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
Injunctions can be given against people aged 10 years and over. The purpose of injunctions is to get the perpetrator to change their behaviour. Breaching an injunction can lead to a prison sentence of up to 2 years or an unlimited fine. An order for an injunction can also prevent the perpetrator from a certain area, including their home.
Whilst legislation does not allow for a private sector landlord to obtain a civil injunction against their tenants, there is nothing wrong in asking a social landlord to do this for you if one of their tenants is involved in the dispute.
Private sector landlords fear closure orders, but they can be extremely useful in helping you obtain a mandatory possession order where anti-social behaviour or criminality has already been proven. An application can be made to the County Court using the Section 8 process and applying for a mandatory order for possession under Ground 7a.
If you are a private sector landlord and suspect your property is being used, or likely to be used, for illegal purposes, the Police and Local Authority have powers under Section 76 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 to obtain a Closure Order.
Before the Police or Local Authority can apply for a Closure Order, they must first issue a Closure Notice on the owner of the property and the occupying tenants. In accordance with section 71(5) of the Act, the notice must:
- identify the premises;
- explain the effect of the notice;
- state that failure to comply with the notice is an offence;
- state that an application will be made under section 80 of the closure order;
- specify when and where the application will be heard;
- explain the effect of a closure order;
- give information about the names of, and means of contacting, persons and organisations in the area that provide advice about housing and legal matters.
The maximum period of a closure notice is 24 hours but can be extended to 48 hours if issued by a police officer of the rank of superintendent, or by the chief executive officer of the local authority.
If the closure notice is not cancelled, an application must be made to the Magistrates Court for a Closure Order within 48 hours of the closure notice being served, with the exception of Christmas Day. The Court may order a closure order where it is satisfied that the use of the premises is likely to cause a nuisance, or a person at the premises has engaged in disorderly, offensive or criminal behaviour. The offence does not necessarily have to have occurred on the premises. The Court can issue a closure order if the property is associated with any disorder near to the property. Closure orders last for three months.